Slavery Myths: Life Expectancy

American South

Here’s the average life expectancy at birth for American slaves in 1850 compared to the life expectancy of various “free” populations around the world:

U.S. White – 40
England and Wales, 1838-1856 – 40
Holland, 1850-1860 – 36
France, 1854-58 – 36
U.S. Slave – 36
Italy, 1885 – 35
Austria, 1875 – 31
Chile, 1920 – 31
Manchester, England, 1831 – 24
New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, 1830 – 24

Note: This information also comes from Time on the Cross: The Economics of Negro Slavery.

What do you suppose the average life expectancy for a negro was in malaria-infested, yellow fever-infested, river blindness-infested West Africa and Central Africa in 1850? What do you suppose the healthcare system was like in, say, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1850?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03unoBg06G0]

66 Comments on Slavery Myths: Life Expectancy

  1. LandShark // October 21, 2012 at 3:21 am //

    How is choosing prison different than choosing slavery?

    People enslave themselves in the worst ways.

    The humane thing to do is what we set out to do all along — enslave them properly.

  2. Mosin Nagant // October 21, 2012 at 4:37 am //

    John Bonacorsi wrote: “Are you sure about that, Mosin? I would think many persons would prefer freedom to enslavement, regardless of consideration of, say, life expectancy or nutrition, precisely because being enslaved is not pleasurable.”

    I was being ironic again, about the “benevolence argument,” not supporting it! Reading more of my comments would make that clear.

  3. Bria Adams // January 31, 2013 at 3:26 am //

    To answer your question. Free.

  4. Kathleen Wright // October 21, 2013 at 11:19 am //

    I accidentally stumbled upon this page while doing research for a paper I am writing regarding the African Diaspora. I know this was published a long time ago and I am commenting late, but the attitude of almost everyone here disgusts me. Insinuating that black people are better off being the property of whites is simply wrong. I can guarantee that almost no one here knows anything about the slave trade as a whole and is informed solely by their misguided sense of superiority that stems from being born white.
    Take into consideration that freed black people were at a serious disadvantage in the United States–they were forbidden by their masters from learning trades or becoming literate, they were discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens even after they were freed, and they had difficulty getting jobs outside of the same plantations they had worked at before becoming freemen. The decreased life expectancy decades after becoming free was the result of the oppressive slaveholders.
    The ignorance of almost everyone here is both disappointing and infuriating. I know you will write off my opinion as that of a liberal white commie or black apologist or something equally hateful and insane, but I implore you to at least reconsider your views or educate yourself before spouting this intrinsically racist and ignorant nonsense.

  5. “they were forbidden by their masters from learning trades or becoming literate”

    Not true. Many Negro slaves were craftsmen such as smiths, wheelwrights, even operating engineers of machines . Their masters either hired them out as such, or bankrolled their workshops where the slave got a percentage of the profits. You had best due some real historical research rather than rely on the PC BS summaries your lesbian professors assign you to read.

  6. I think most people are missing the main point

    The life span of a factory worker in Liverpool UK in 1850 was 27 years of age, and he had his freedom to work between 60 and 70 hours a week, as did his children who under 13 years of age were restricted to only 60 hours a week.

    So to me Wilberforce and his cohorts who correctly abolished slavery in this period did nothing and cared less for their own people, and I fear that outlook is current today when collections are made for the third world when in so called the developed world people die daily from poverty.

  7. Captain John Charity Spring MA // January 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm //

    I can, with certainty state that there were 240,000 free blacks in the confederacy. Of whom 50,000 owned slaves. So 1/5 of blacks in the Confederacy owned slaves.

    Chang and Eng Bunker are two celebrated/hidden examples of this.

    I’m so sick of niggers.

  8. Captain John Charity Spring MA // January 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm //

    The decrease in life expectancy also occurred with Russian Serfs after emancipation too.
    Industrialization of an agrarian population is a killer.

    One thing you ought to look at is the Jewish role in the genesis of the Atlantic slave trade. The first intensive sugar plantations were set up in Sao Tome by Jewish renegades escaping the inquisition in Portugal. They found the Volcanic island, a few miles off the African mainland, unpopulated and proceeded to bring in Africans to work their sugar cane. The Jews appear to have been specialists in sugar cane and slaving all the way back to Babylon when cane began to be cultivated under the Arab Caliphate around 600AD.

  9. Mosin Nagant // January 26, 2014 at 8:54 pm //

    David, I agree that BOTH African enslavement abroad AND un-Christian mistreatment of fellow Britons at home needed abolishment at once. The second goal would have met with much more resistance, so they took on the less difficult task. However, Wilberforce was involved in at least one domestic reform effort: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_for_the_Suppression_of_Vice However, the ‘vice’ effort was really aimed as much at checking radical opponents of elitism as immorality itself!

  10. Mosin Nagant // January 26, 2014 at 9:03 pm //

    Commenter Kathleen Wright (above) is actually correct that in many places teaching Africans to read was not allowed because it would make them more dangerous, harder to control.

  11. Captain John Charity Spring MA // January 26, 2014 at 11:45 pm //

    It was considered dangerous to teach peasants to read too. I’m not sure I follow. Missionaries in Africa however went in specifically to teach literacy.

  12. Mosin Nagant // January 27, 2014 at 1:26 am //

    I didn’t say whether I was for or against their literacy training, but only that there really were rules against it in some places. Good point, John, about discouraging white peasants from reading, my response to your question on the other thread disappeared, and the printing press invention increased the temptation and the danger.

  13. Raul Delgadillo // June 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm //

    Just having the freedom to walk to wherever you desire is incredible, when you spend any amount of time without that freedom.

  14. victorbradley // July 23, 2014 at 11:16 pm //

    When you said “Malaria-infested, yellow fever-infested, river blindness-infested” I had to re-read because at first I thought you were describing South Carolina and Mississippi which had the largest enslaved populations in America, or Jamaica, or Panama, which had much larger enslaved populations than the U.S. The point is, the conditions you attribute to West and Central Africa are exactly those of the areas where slavery was most extensive. Combine this with the fact that in Africa people were allowed to do what was best for themselves health-wise and were not being deliberately worked to death, and the life-spans might have actually been better. Especially since they had full access to an extensive base of herbal knowledge, a subset of which traveled across the ocean with them and allowed them to cure ailments which affected Blacks as well as Whites (See: Caesar’s cure) And if you’re trying to argue that Blacks were benefited by slavery because of enhanced lifespans (which you haven’t demonstrated) then by that logic, wouldn’t it have made sense to enslave White laborers as well, since apparently they had short lifespans as you HAVE demonstrated.

  15. I was thinking about how some politicians resort to racism to answer thier problems, so I did some research and found that their complaint about being brought here as slaves and I found that the chiefs and leaders of their tribes were the ones selling their own people. Chances are the ones that were brought here would have been slaves in other tribes. SO I say quit your complaining and calling up the race card.

  16. in no way do i support slavery whether its called that or not. the succesful races on this planet have all came to the modern age baby step by baby step. europeans made scientific and social breakthroughs over thousands of years ago. sub-saharens were not and still are not anywhere ready for the complexity of western society. africans should not be allowed in the government of any white nation. throughout history africans formed small to medium tribes that wereconstantly at war. they still form these tribes but call them gangs. the whole world would be better off if we would of left that continent alone until they civilized themselves. every thing we do to help them ends up hurting them and making them more dependant. that being said the trans atlantic slave trade was inhumane the amount of people the jews stuffed on them ships is a true testimony to there hatred of anyone but themselves. i dont hate blacks i just think our two races are so different genetically and culturally we should not inhabit the same countries. maybe in a few hundted years. no one is more hopelessly enslaved than those who beleive they are free.

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